Anaheim Duck's Bob Murray not my top GM
December 05, 2017 3:00 AM
by Nick Pellegrino
For just a moment, forget about my allegiance to the Los Angeles Kings – oops! – the Vegas Golden Knights.
I still vehemently believe Anaheim Ducks General Manager Bob Murray, the NHL’s GM of the Year in 2013-14, remains an idiot. No, really. Some of his trades continue to mystify me, so it came as no surprise when New Jersey GM Ray Shero, portraying the role of Cool Hand Luke, beat Murray’s itchy trigger finger with a slick, steal of a deal.
In a transaction that shocked franchises throughout the league, Shero was able to pilfer Sami Vatanen from the Ducks. Vatanen, an offensive minded defenseman, is exactly what every NHL club seeks, yet no one wants to give away… until Murray’s phone rang.
In exchange, Anaheim received center Adam Henrique, who quickly played significant minutes during overtime in Saturday’s loss in Nashville, with the clubs swapping some draft picks and other lower-level players. Vatanen and Henrique, both high draft picks from 2008 and 2009, were life-long members of their respective clubs, until Shero made an offer Murray couldn’t refuse.
So if the farm has no further prospects, is another trade in the works? If so, even national commentators Bob McKenzie and Brian Engblom don’t seem to know about it. Thus, if the talent divide is so great, is Murray simply filling one hole and creating another?
Kings fans will remember Henrique from the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals when they beat the Devils in the Final. Henrique, a Calder Cup Finalist for best rookie, recorded 13 points and a +12 rating in 24 postseason games, becoming the only rookie in NHL history to score two series-clinching overtime goals in the same playoffs.
Said Shero, “In acquiring Sami, we bring on a right shot, top-four defenseman who can play in all situations. This move also gives us contract certainty on the back end for the next two-plus years. When acquiring a defenseman like Vatanen, you have to give back quality assets or players in return.”
And when you receive one player in exchange for two, obviously, the single, better player went to New Jersey. Meanwhile, the trade brings concern that one of the Ducks many injured centers – Captain Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler and Richard Rakell – may be gone longer than expected.
Kudos to Shero for his evolution of the Devils. In a probable “duh” selection, Shero will be the NHL executive of the year (no line posted).
Duck backs: Anaheim has been in back-to-back situations five times so far this season, all on the road. Each time in the second game, the Ducks went to overtime or a shootout. If this trend continues, take Anaheim at +1.5 goals on the puck line in these road situations – Dec. 19 at N.Y. Rangers, then Feb. 6 in Buffalo.
It’s a sign this club is still working hard for head coach Randy Carlyle, forcing overtime vs. Calgary, San Jose and Vancouver for a playoff berth despite the so-called “PATH Treatment” of teams not in the Top 8 by American Thanksgiving not making the playoffs despite 75 percent of the regular season remaining.
A to ‘Zona: Opening the season with just two victories in 20 starts (2-16-2), the Arizona Coyotes were on pace to match the 1974-75 expansion Washington Capitals, which went 8-67-5 in their inaugural campaign to record the poorest Expansion Era record (post-1967) in NHL history.
However, following a recent sweep through eastern Canada where the home side was at least -200 – talk about a missed parlay opportunity! – the Coyotes seem to be waking up. In all three wins, Arizona’s weak power play scored five times. Since returning home, the club is 1-2-0, winning with a PPG; losing without a special teams goal.
Jump-starting the rise in Phoenix (actually Glendale, Ariz.) is Oliver Ekman-Larsson. His PP shot from the point through traffic opened a home win over L.A., moving the defenseman to second in team scoring, right behind 19-year-old Clayton Keller.
It took six weeks, but the youngsters on the Coyotes are starting to put it together. Don’t hold your breath on a playoff berth, yet Arizona is no longer an automatic “go against” squad at the betting window because we know Rick Tocchet is one of the league’s top-flight coaches.
Continue to watch Tocchet mentor players like Keller, fellow LW Brendan Perlini, RW Christian Fischer, and C Christian Dvorak; all are under 22. The Coyotes also recalled 2015 Top 3 draft pick Dylan Strome from the AHL Tucson Roadrunners last Sunday, hoping to ease him into the lineup at wing. Strome was one of the AHL’s scoring leaders.
We thought we’d learn more in last week’s two-game road trip to Alberta against division rivals with among the poorest penalty-killing units in hockey. However, Arizona lost twice, yet followed with a home-ice shutout of New Jersey – go figure – to knock the Devils out of first place in the Metro Division.
Meanwhile, “our” Vegas Golden Knights rank next-to-last in PPG at home. Just wait until they get that unit to ignite!
Brayden McNabb: The defenseman signed a four-year contract extension; the package is worth $10M according to “sources.”
Marc-Andre Fleury: The countdown on the return of their No. 1 goalie from a concussion is almost over… but then again! “The number of symptoms are down to one, and the severity now at this point is very low,” said GM George McPhee last week. “But we’re not going to put him on the ice to practice or do anything until that brain is 100 percent healed. It’s important now, it’s important 15 years from now.”
An interesting timetable for Fleury’s return would be Dec. 14, when his old club – the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins – come to town.
VGK Math: Vegas may be in contention for a division crown, but read deeper into the Pacific Division standings. The Golden Knights are tied with San Jose for playing the fewest number of games in the division, meaning those extra contests could translate into additional points – moving back into first place!
As GamingToday sports editor Mark Mayer recently told Brent Musburger on VSiN.com, “It’s time to no longer call the Golden Knights an expansion team.”